Community Payback helps prevent flooding

Climate Vision


  • Flooding
  • Community action
  • Local government

Removing leaf litter from drains helps to alleviate part of a flooding problem, generating awareness of simple preventative measures, and producing a valuable resource by composting the collected leaf litter.


In November 2010, residents in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, were flooded as a result of blocked drains. Blocked drains often contribute to localised flooding, with leaf litter adding to the problem: clearing drains is expensive and labour intensive, and is the responsibility of the highway authorities.

The Pitt Review of the 2007 floods identified a need to establish clear responsibility and understanding of each local authority’s drainage and watercourse system to help to reduce future flooding.

Main players & partners

  • Luci Isaacson, Climate Vision
  • Cornwall Council’s highways authority
  • The Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company Limited (DDCCRC)
  • Environment Agency
  • Cory Environmental
  • Lostwithiel Town Council
  • St. Blazey Town Council
  • Truro City Council
  • Cornwall Waste Action
  • University of Hull
  • Cornwall Community Flood Forum
  • Sustainable Development Unit


Residents of Lostwithiel felt that felt leaf litter-blocked drains contributed to the effects of the 2010 flood and needed to be addressed. This led to Climate Vision initiating a pilot project to measure and remove leaf litter from drains throughout the autumn. Climate Vision also attended local flood meetings to speak to residents and understand the effects of heavy rainfall in local catchment areas.

The DDCCRC coordinated offenders on Community Payback to work on the drain clearing project, with certified training on working in the road provided by the highways authority. Cornwall Waste Action provided further training in turning leaf litter into soil conditioner, and provided the sacks for leaf collection.

The participating offenders were invited to contribute to the project method, and met householders to learn about the impacts of flooding and through discussions with Climate Vision learn about climate change and how it will increase the likelihood of such events. The team gained valuable experience and skills in alleviating environmental problems.

During the clearing sessions many residents personally thanked the community payback team for their work.


  • Lostwithiel escaped further flooding during the heavy rains of October 2011 while some nearby areas suffered.
  • Neighbouring areas are following this low carbon and sustainable approach to reducing flood risk.
  • Collected leaf litter has been successfully composted and given to local residents and councils to use as mulch.
  • The Project successfully ran up to January 2015. A toolkit and accompanying report are being compiled to enable others to adopt the model and will be available shortly.